Waiters are walking by with platters across the restaurant, and the sound of forks and knives hitting plates surround the area. A soft piano is played in the background; this is one of those fancy places that husbands spend a day’s pay to take their wives to on Valentine’s Day.
In the middle of the restaurant, there is a man and a woman in their early 40’s waiting for their plates to arrive. The man is wearing a casual, yet sophisticated navy suit, while the woman is wearing an olive green dress with her red hair down, naturally curly. They’ve known each other since they were teenagers, yet are awkwardly acting like they are strangers. One of them has to speak, and for the man, he’d try to break the ice.
Weston: You look, uh, nice tonight.
Mollie: Thank you. You look nice as well.
Weston sips some water to hide his awkwardness, Mollie immediately takes a sip of her white wine instead. She decides to discuss the only thing they have in common nowadays.
Mollie: Grace is really adjusting to New York City quite well. She definitely picked it up faster than I did at her age and I was born and raised here.
Weston: *smiles* She was meant to be in the city. She always seemed different than the girls back in Virginia, y’know? She was going to end up here some way or another.
Mollie: I found her eating Butter Pecan ice cream in bed the other night.
Weston: Like mother, like daughter.
The conversation quiets for a bit, both are gathering their thoughts, which are everywhere at this point. Weston takes a deep breath.
Weston: Thank you for letting Grace stay with you while she’s in college, Mol.
Mollie: Of course, I mean I have eighteen years to make up with her, so I’m glad to have any time spent with her.
Mollie looks down at her glass, avoiding eye contact with Weston.
Weston: As long as you’re here now, that’s all that matters.
Mollie: No, it doesn’t, Weston. It sucks having to get to know my own daughter eighteen years in because I chose to be selfish and dumb and leave out on her.
Weston: Mollie, we were young–
Mollie: So what?!
Weston looks around the restaurant, hoping that their conversation is not audible to anyone else dining in.
Mollie: You were young too, Wes. You were friggin’ training to be in the FBI for God’s sake. You still were able to raise her and take care of her and all of that.
Weston: Mollie, at that moment, having a kid wasn’t in your plan.
Mollie: It wasn’t in yours either.
Weston: We’re two different people, Mollie.
Mollie: I just regret not being there, okay?
Mollie takes a huge sip of her white wine, looking more somber in thought.
Mollie: I love Grace living with me, but it doesn’t make it easier for me.
Mollie: It doesn’t help the thoughts I have before bed about my life. Every night, I kick myself for not being there for her when she needed me the most because she’s such an awesome kid now, Wes. I mean, Grace has so much of your qualities but when I see Grace and talk to her and get to know her better, it’s like I’m staring back at myself. And what type of example am I setting up for her? “Oh, in order to make your dreams come true you have to ditch your family and be an absent mother!”
Weston takes in a deep sigh and holds his eyes with his hands. He looks back up at Mollie, and in his mind, she’s eighteen again: big, curly hair, a little acne here and there, 15 bracelets around her wrist, and busted up jeans and Converse: the girl he fell in love with 25 years ago. He’s brought back to the present when Mollie continues to talk.
Mollie: I just wish I was able to see how she became the girl she is now. I wish I was there to see her grow into a toddler, see her first dance recital, her first day of school, first competition, best friend, heartbreak, zit for crying out loud. I just wish I could go back and tell my 24-year-old self that Grace was the only thing that mattered in this world. My career shouldn’t have ever come in the way.
In a split moment, Weston remembers that last night he saw Mollie 18 years ago:
Him: “Mollie, I’ve had enough of this! Do you even realize you’re neglecting your own child for some dance career?! We all have our own dreams, but family always come first, Mol!”
Her: “You don’t understand! I feel trapped! I feel like I’m in something I didn’t sign up for! I love Grace, and you know that, but–“
Him: “You love your career more than her?”
Her: “I didn’t say that; how dare you!”
Him: “Listen, Mol. I’m tired of this marriage being one-sided and having to take care of Grace all the time because you’re too busy living your dream without a care in the world. You have responsibilities now, Mollie! Grace needs her mother!
Her: “And I’m trying my best to be one!”
Him: “Look. I’ve made sacrifices with my own career to be the father that Grace needs. It’s not fair that only one of us is doing so. You gotta make a choice, Mollie. It’s her, or your career.”
Her: “You can’t do–“
Him: “It’s HER, or your career. Pick one.”
Weston snaps back to reality and sees present-day Mollie: a mature, wise, still spunky and stubborn, but more reasonable than before. He could see the absolute regret she carries on her shoulders every day. He knows Mollie always loved Grace. He always loved her. Despite what happened in the past, it’s in the past, and he knew she deserved to move forward.
Weston: Mol, Grace forgave you.
Mollie: *dumbfounded* What?
Weston: She forgave you all those months ago, Mollie. She forgave you when you gave a damn about her dream to go to Julliard under a scholarship. She forgave you when you saw her for her instead of the things you want her to be. Mol, when we first in New York she couldn’t stop talking about you and how excited she was about dancing. If there was any other damn person on this universe who saw dance with such importance as she does, it would be you.
Mollie looks at Weston and sees an eighteen-year-old Weston: curly dirty blonde hair, aqua blue eyes, turtle neck zip up sweater, the boy who saved her from a bunch of guys in his neighborhood all those years ago. The boy who made her feel like her demons weren’t anything he couldn’t handle. The boy she fell in love with 25 years ago.
Weston: You have so much to look forward to with Grace. You’re here for your first year of college, you’ll be there for her first career job, her graduation, wedding, *worried* her having children and all of that. She is only 18, Mollie; she has her whole life ahead of her.
Mollie smiles at Weston for reassurance, and he smiles back. He looks at her hands, figetting on the napkin at the table. She’s still has something on her mind. So, he says it.
Weston: I forgave you the moment you started to make Grace happy, Mol.
Mollie looks up at Weston, shocked. How could he forgive her so quickly? Eighteen years away from him and their daughter; who in their right mind would forgive someone for that? Surely, she still can’t fully forgive herself.
Mollie: Grace gets it from you; her willingness to forgive people.
Weston: Eh, she gets everything else from you, so I’m glad she has at least one decent quality of mine. *laughs*
They smile and look at each other, taking sips from their drinks. Their food finally arrives, and they thank the waiter for their dinner.